Promising, youthful team pumped for Olympics

'If we don’t win, I think we’ll be disappointed:' Moir

By RYAN PYETTE, QMI AGENCY

Young and dynamic.

That’s what pairs champ Bryce Davison sees in the Canadian Olympic figure skating team heading to Vancouver next month.

It fits the description of ice dance stars Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Canada’s best Olympic medal bets for the Pacific Coliseum ice.

But so does this: confident, bold and hungry for gold.

“We feel like we’re the Olympic gold medal champions,” said Moir, a 22-year-old Ilderton native. “We’d like to do it for ourselves after the work we’ve put in. That’s what we’re going to Vancouver for and if we don’t win, I think we’ll be disappointed.

“(And) I don’t think it’s a surprise (the team is young). We’ve had a young national team for the past couple of years now.”

This will be the first Olympics for Moir and Virtue , who wrapped up their third straight Canadian figure skating title on home ice at London’s John Labatt Centre Saturday night.

They weren’t named to the team for Turin four years ago.

It struck a chord.

“We really wanted to make sure we were ready for Vancouver and 2010,” Virtue said.

“We know how (third-place ice dancers) Kaitlyn (Weaver) and Andrew (Poje) and (third-place pairs this week) Craig (Buntin) and Meagan (Duhamel feel,” Moir added.

Moir and Virtue have skated together 13 years. That’s a lifetime on this continent.

“I think it’s an incredible advantage they found each other so early,” 10-time Canadian ice dance champ Shae-Lynn Bourne said. “If you can stay together, you get to know each other inside out. In North American skating, you see a lot of skaters switch partners after a few years and I don’t know if that’s always a good thing.

“It might be better to find the one first and start from zero.”

That’s what Moir and Virtue did. Their top Olympic threats, Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis, followed a similar path — right to the exact coaches and training centre in Canton, Mich.

“It’s great because we watch them do a run-through and then we say, ‘All right, it’s our turn,’” Virtue said.

Is there destiny to the dance?

This season, their coach Marina Zoueva gave the Canadians 20 CDs to sift through for music their flamenco. Unknowingly, they chose “Farrucas”, the same piece Zoueva’s former students Sergei Grinkov and Ekaterina Gordeeva skated to a second Olympic pairs gold in 1994 at Lillehammer, Norway.

“They see it as a sign,” Zoueva said.

“She waited all season to tell us,” Virtue said.

Such patience.

There is very little of it in figure skating.

World silver medalist Patrick Chan, still just 19, is expected to win now. He’s heading to his first Olympics, too.

The other home favourites — Davison and Jessica Dube in pairs and six-time national women’s winner Joannie Rochette — have already been to the big show.

So has pairs veteran Anabelle Langlois, who went to Salt Lake City in 2002 with Patrice Archetto. For current partner Cody Hay, it’s his first Olympics.

“For all those people who’ve been asking us in (training site) Barrie if we were going to the Olympics,” said Langlois, who battled back from a broken ankle this year, “we finally have an answer for them.

“Yes.”

At 28, Langlois is the Canadian figure skating team’s eldest member.

“All I’d say is skate your best because you never know,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen. There are always surprises in the Olympics.”

By getting back, she’s one of them.

Rochette was asked if she’ll retire competitively — medal or not — after these Games.

“I don’t know,” she said. “When Anabelle went to Salt Lake City in 2002, I remember her saying there’s no way she’ll still be around in 2010. She’s 28 now and I’m 24 so in four years, I’ll be the same.

“I don’t know.”

Home ice or not, there are little guarantees at the Olympics.

There are even fewer in skating.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

CANADA’S OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING TEAM

Men: Patrick Chan,19, Toronto; Vaughn Chipeur, 25, Edmonton.

Women: Joannie Rochette, 24, Ile Dupas, Que.; Cynthia Phaneuf, 22, Contrecoeur, Que.

Pairs: Jessica Dube, 22, St-Cyrille de Wendover, Que., and Bryce Davison, 23, Huntsville, Ont.; Anabelle Langlois, 28, Hull, Que., and Cody Hay, 26, Edmonton, Alta.

Ice dance: Tessa Virtue, 20, London, Ont., and Scott Moir, 22, Ilderton, Ont.; Vanessa Crone, 19, Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier, 18, Toronto, Ont.

POLL